As long as you follow instructions and have basic tools, you can install your new LED light bar with little difficulty. This article provides basic installation guidance to supplement the directions or schematics that came with your light bar.
Before You Get Started
Before you jump into installing your new LED light bar, consider checking several things, before getting started:
Is Your Light Legal?
Hopefully, you already checked local and state regulations regarding the use of auxiliary lights on your vehicle. If not, do so now to avoid having to remove it or alter the mounting. For the largest light bars, you probably need a cover when not driving off-road.
Check the Parts List
If you have researched various LED light bar reviews, you probably noticed that a few buyers received opened packaging with parts missing. Make sure everything you expected to be in the box is actually there.
Tools and Materials You Need
Besides a good set of screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers, you need a measuring tape and something to mark drill holes. Only use drill bits that are the right size and are sharp. Dull drill bits of the wrong size will create frustration for yourself and possibly damage your vehicle. Vise-locks or C-clamps can hold the light bar in position when marking holes.
For light bar wiring, you need a pair of wire cutters, wire strippers and the correct crimpers for the connectors you choose. Use marine grade or IP-rated connectors and you can forgo tape and caulking to seal splices. Wire ties help route wiring under the hood and inside the cab.
Testing the LED Light Bar
Connect your light bar directly to the vehicle battery or another DC voltage source as soon as you open the box. If you use a power supply, make sure its voltage output is within the light bar’s specs. Also, make sure it can supply the maximum current your light bar draws.
Tip: Never connect your LED light bar to AC current as it will damage it.
Connect the light bar’s red wire to the positive side of the battery or power supply and the black wire to the negative terminal. If the light does not work, you need to take care of this problem before continuing with the installation.
Tip: When testing the light bar, do not look directly into the LEDs as the high-intensity light can damage your eyes.
How to Install LED Light Bar Mounts
Depending on the size or manufacturer of your LED light bar, mounting brackets differ. Smaller light bars, around 4 to 12 inches, may have one or more threaded studs at the housing bottom. Longer light bars typically have studs on each end that fit into right-angle brackets held by screws or bolts attached to the vehicle’s body or chassis.
Some light bars have channel mounts. These allow flexibility with regard to positioning the mounting brackets, which slide into the housing channel. If you have a lumber rack or roll bar, specialized bar mounts and clamps may be the simplest way to get your LED light bar attached.
Tip: To ensure that mounting bolts or nuts do not loosen over time due to vibration, invest in a small tube of liquid thread locker.
Smaller light bars are often mounted within the vehicle grill or under the bumper in the case of fog lamps. With only a stud to work with, you may have to fabricate a bracket to create a solid mount. Do not attach the stud to plastic parts even if they seem solid. Over time, vibration will crack the plastic around the hole.
To position end brackets properly, attach them to the housing’s end studs and – with help from one or two assistants – place the light bar in its final position. With free hands, you can make accurate marks through the holes of the bracket bases for drilling.
Tip: Use three drill bit sizes to make a single hole. Make a pilot hole with a small bit, say 3/32 inch. Enlarge the hole with a bit midway in size between the pilot bit and the final bit size. The last hole should be the exact size of the mounting bolts.
Do not place channel brackets more than one-quarter of the light bar length in from either end of the housing. If the mounting surface has areas that are reinforced, try to place the brackets on these to increase stability and reduce vibration.
LED Lights Mounting Bars
If you already have a roll bar, then LED light mounting clamps are a great way to mount your lights, especially smaller ones. These also permit aiming the light in three dimensions. There are aftermarket light mounting bar kits available if you have no roll bar.
Original Equipment Brackets
Some LED light bar manufacturers or aftermarket suppliers make OE brackets to fit specific vehicles. These utilize existing body or chassis holes in your car or truck.
Tip: Be sure the rear of the light bar housing has good ventilation and is not near a heat source. LEDs must be cool to ensure proper operation and long life.
How to Install LED Light Bar Wiring
A more complete guide to LED light bar wiring is here, but the general steps are these:
- Always disconnect the negative terminal of your battery before starting the wiring.
- Use automotive grade wire. GPT is acceptable, but GTX and TLX grades are better.
- Use a wire gauge that matches or exceeds the maximum current of your LED light bar.
- Fuse power wires to the expected current draw, not the wire size.
- Use an automotive switching relay if the light bar draws 10A or greater.
- With or without a relay, use a cab switch rated for at least 10 amps.
- Use waterproof wiring connectors. Check for these at a local marine shop.
- Avoid unnecessary splices, but use a snap-in connector at the light bar to ease removal.
Keep a plan on how to proceed clearly in your mind. Take everything one step at a time but think ahead to the next steps to avoid figuratively painting yourself into a corner. If you have doubts along the way, consult an expert especially with regard to circuit wiring.
Once you have completed the installation, enjoy your pride and joy as soon as possible. Have fun and be safe!